Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 19, 2021.

Miguel Cabrera 3,000 hit watch: With another hit today, Cabrera is now 21 away from 3,000 for his career. The Tigers have 12 games left.

Max Scherzer 200 win watch: It’s not possible for him to reach the milestone this season, but put him on your radar for next year: He won number 190 against Cincinnati yesterday and is now just 10 away. Both the Dodgers Clayton Kershaw (184 wins) and Cardinals Adam Wainwright (183) could feasibly reach the mark in 2022, as well.

Mets victories bring no joy: New York beat Philadelphia 3-2 today on Jeff McNeil‘s decisive, tie-breaking, 7th inning home run off starter Kyle Gibson. Oh, but what joy is there in a victory as meaningless as this? For lo, we Mets fans have ridden the highs and lows of this season for these few months and can no longer take the soul crushing lows we are burdened with not just now, but year-in and year-out. I weep at the thought of another disappointing September, knowing we came this far just to lose it all in the end. The forlorn, melancholic chill of the shortening autumn days brings with it the unbearable sadness of the closing of yet another baseball season where redemption is no longer possible and even miracles can no longer save us. Yea, October for Mets fans seems a decade, a lifetime, an eternity away, the light at the end of a tunnel that only gets longer as we trek further and further into it. Why, why, why must the hands of fate wrap their icy, bony, fingers around our hearts and squeeze them until they can no longer beat, wringing us of any hope or optimism? I cry knowing the children of this year shall not see their heroes deGrom and Conforto and Stroman bring them postseason heroics. Oh, isn’t that what the Mets need now, a hero? Can’t anyone here play this game? Or do they not care for victory, just their paychecks? Give us something, anything. 1986 seems so long ago … and it was.

…alright, that was a little over the top, but these Mets, man, what a let down. Every single year it’s the same thing. A great start and they tank toward the end of the campaign. It never ends.

Here comes Kelenic: Mariners top prospect Jarred Kelenic has struggled mightily this season, carrying a .099 average through his first 111 at-bats. But it looks like the sixth-overall pick of the 2018 draft is beginning to put it all together: Since September 7, he has slashed .257/.333/.657 with 4 home runs, 9 RBI and 8 runs scored in 35 at-bats. Ranked by Baseball America as the fourth-best prospect in the game going into 2021, the 21-year-old outfielder tore up Triple-A with a .320 batting average, 9 home runs and 28 RBI in 30 games. His power-speed potential cannot be underestimated—he had 23 home runs and 20 stolen bases between three minor league stops in 2019; between the majors and minors this year, he has 21 dingers and 11 steals.

Dalbec coming into his own: Another highly regarded prospect, corner infielder Bobby Dalbec of the Red Sox, is also turning the corner. After struggling to elevate his average above the .210s for much the campaign, the slugger has slashed .324/.419/.797 with 9 home runs and 23 RBI over the past month. Now 26, he has twice been named by Baseball America as one of the game’s top-100 prospects—and he played like one last year in his big league debut, slugging .600 with a 149 OPS+ in 80 at-bats. Dalbec strikes out frequently, with 145 Ks in 389 at-batsnthis season, but he has the power that could get him to 500 career home runs one day—in 455 ABs between two minor league stops in 2018, he slugged 32 dingers.

A nice run for Lyles: Rangers pitcher Jordan Lyles, who owns a career 5.22 ERA and 82 OPS+ and who has somehow lasted 11 seasons in the major leagues despite being no better than mediocre the entire time, looks like he might finally, belatedly, be living up to his first round billing. Since August 21, he is 4-1 with a 3.73 ERA in 31 1/3 innings; he’s surrendered just 26 hits and struck out as many batters. He owns a 3-0 record and a 1.74 ERA over his last three appearances, spanning 20 2/3 frames. Better late than never—the Rockies took him as a first round, supplemental pick in 2008 after losing reliever Trever Miller to free agency. The Rangers signed him as a free agent in 2019.

Urena’s bouncing back: Tigers hurler Jose Urena has never been an All-Star, but he showed promise as a youngster in the Marlins system in the late 2010s. Between 2017 and 2018, while in his mid-20s, he tossed 343 2/3 innings and surrendered just 307 hits; he maintained a .548 winning percentage on those poor Marlins teams that went a combined 140-183. He had the best ERA among the team’s starters both years. Since then, however, he has gone 8-21 with a 5.45 mark in 203 innings; this year, now with Detroit, he is 4-8, 5.68 in 95 frames. His numbers could have been worse, but over his past 18 innings dating back to July, he has posted a 2.50 ERA with just 3 walks. His WHIP is a disastrous 1.611 this season; he got it down to 1.278 during this stretch.

Studs and duds: September 12 – September 18

The Offensive Stud is a revolving door of Blue Jays at this point.

Offensive stud: Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Blue Jays). After a few days away, Hernandez is back on top.

The outfielder has continued his electric September by hitting .409/.480/.727 with 2 home runs, 9 RBI and 7 runs scored over the past week. He is slashing .371/.473/.726 with 6 home runs and 20 RBI this month and .304/.355/.527 with 28 dingers and 104 RBI on the year.

The Blue Jays are so stacked that his 4.0 WAR ranks just 5th on the club, though he paces the team in RBI and his OPS+ (138) is second behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s 176. Since 2018, Hernandez has averaged 34 home runs, 97 RBI and 90 runs scored per 162 games.

Honorable mention: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (OF, Blue Jays; .994 OPS, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 7 R, 3 BB).

Offensive dud: Aristides Aquino (OF, Reds). Aquino remains the week’s worst with his 0-for-7, 4 K, one error performance.

When he’s on, he’s on, but the 27-year-old has been plagued by too many cold streaks this season. In one seventeen at-bat stretch in late July and early August, he had just one hit for a .059 batting average; from August 20 to September 3, he had a single hit in 27 ABs for a .037 mark.

While his power potential cannot be denied—he averages 32 home runs per 162 games—his inconsistency cannot be, either. How much of a leash does Cincinnati give him? His defense is middling, his speed is negligible (one steal this year) and his on-base percentage is paltry (.305 for his career). They’re in the thick of the playoff race. It’s amazing they’ve stuck with him so long.

Dishonorable mention: Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, Brewers; 0-for-9, 6 K).

Pitching stud: Max Scherzer (SP, Dodgers). Welcome back Max, we haven’t seen you in what, a couple days?

The 37-year-old Scherzer is pitching like he is in the middle of his prime—he is 2-0 in his past two starts, allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 16 batters, in 15 innings of work. He didn’t surrender an earned run, but that’s nothing new—Scherzer hasn’t given one up in five straight starts, meaning he is riding a 37 inning scoreless streak.

It’s a little soon to say, watch out, Orel,” but this run shows just how much the righty has aged like fine wine. He now stands at 15-4 with a league-leading 2.08 ERA in 29 starts this year; he’s tossed 169 innings, but just surrendered his 100th hit on September 12.

With an ERA+ of 195, he is on pace to have the highest full-season mark of any pitcher since 2018 and the highest among pitchers his age or older since 2005, when 42-year-old Roger Clemens had a 226 mark.

Honorable mention: Aaron Nola (SP, Phillies; 11 IP, 19 K, 1 BB, 1 W).

Finnegan debuted with a 2.92 ERA in 25 appearances last year. (Wikipedia).

Pitching dud: Kyle Finnegan (RP, Nationals). Well, Finnegan was having an excellent season before this hiccup.

Prior to September 15, he had a 2.61 ERA in 59 appearances; that number is up to 3.39 now, thanks to a two-game stretch in which he allowed 7 hits, a couple home runs and two walks in 2 1/3 innings of work. He blew two saves and took the same number of losses, bringing his record to 5-8.

Though his campaign has had its ups and downs, he was on the right track until this blip—from August 15 to September 12, he had an 0.68 ERA and .174 OBA in 13 appearances. In just a couple innings, all that progress was undone.

Dishonorable mention: Tyler Wells (RP, Orioles; 1/3 IP, 1 L, 1 BSV, 2 ER).

Studs and duds: September 6 – September 12

We haven’t seen Teoscar Hernandez in a while; we welcome back a familiar one as the Pitching Stud.

What a difference a few years makes: In his time with Houston, Hernandez hit just .230. (Wikipedia).

Offensive stud: Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Blue Jays). It was a nice run for Marcus Semien, but a new face has taken his place.

Hernandez has hit .448/.556/.862 with 3 home runs, including a grand slam, 10 RBI, 13 runs scored, 2 stolen bases and 5 walks in the past week—but let’s not kid ourselves, he’s been one of the game’s hottest hitters since August. In 33 games since August 8, Hernandez has hit .323/.389/.608 with 10 home runs, 33 RBI and 31 runs scored.

And his performance couldn’t have come at a better time. With Hernandez and Semien surging, the Blue Jays currently lead in the American League wild card race, barely, and need all their cylinders firing right now. Hernandez is doing his best to make that happen.

Honorable mention: Marcus Semien (2B, Blue Jays; .364/.462/.818, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 8 R).

Offensive dud: Gio Urshela (3B, Yankees). Despite going 1-for-4 at the plate, Urshela continued his struggles yesterday by striking out two more times and committing an error in the field. He has had two strikeouts in four of the past five games—and a single K in the fifth one—making him 3-for-21 with nine strikeouts over the past week. Since his return to the Yankees lineup in late August, he is 5-for-43 (.116) with 15 Ks and no walks.

Dishonorable mention: Amed Rosario (SS, Indians; 3-for-21, 7 K, 2 E).

Pitching stud: Max Scherzer (SP, Dodgers). Scherzer seems to be getting better. In 16 innings over his past two starts, he has amassed 22 strikeouts—including the 3,000th of his career—without walking a single batter. Just seven of batsmen have even managed hits off him.

Scherzer hasn’t allowed more than 200 hits in a season since 2011. (Wikipedia).

Having not allowed an earned run since August 21, the hurler is now 6-0 with 72 strikeouts, 5 walks allowed and a 0.88 ERA in 51 innings since joining Los Angeles in July; he is 14-4 with 219 strikeouts, a league-leading 0.821 WHIP, a league-leading 2.17 ERA and a 186 ERA+ on the year. Baseball Reference’s similarity scores say the pitcher second-most similar to him through age 36 is Randy Johnson. Sounds about right.

Honorable mention: Kevin Gausman (SP, Giants; 2-0 W-L, 13 IP, 18 K, 1 BB, 2 QS).

Pitching dud: Alberto Baldonado (RP, Nationals). It was a rough week for the 28-year-old rookie, who debuted on September 2.

On September 10, he gave up a hit and blew a save, then on the 11th, he walked 2 and allowed 2 earned runs in one-third of an inning for the loss. For those counting at home: He has a 10.80 ERA in 1 2/3 innings over the past seven days, spread over 3 appearances.

It was the first real rough patch of the hurler’s short career, as he allowed just one walk and a hit in 4 2/3 frames over 4 appearances initially. That he is in the majors at all is pretty amazing—he was signed by the Mets in 2009 and didn’t even reach Triple-A until 2017—and he had a 6.65 ERA in 39 appearances when he did.

Dishonorable mention: JT Chargois (RP, 0-1 W-L, 3 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 1 BSV).

Max Scherzer joins the 3,000 K club.

Scherzer is the third pitcher since 2019 to reach 3,000 Ks—Justin Verlander and C.C. Sabathia did it that year. (Wikipedia).

Max Scherzer has joined the immortals.

When Scherzer got the Padres Eric Hosmer swinging in the fifth inning yesterday, he became just the 19th pitcher with 3,000 or more career strikeouts.

And he did it quickly, in just 14 seasons.

Having developed into one of the game’s best strikeout pitchers as he entered his prime in his late 20s, he hasn’t averaged less than 10 Ks per nine innings pitched since 2012, when he was with Detroit.

Since then, he has won three strikeout titles—in 2016, 2017 and 2018—and K-ed 200-plus batters nine times and 250 or more five times—including 300 with Washington in 2018. He has thrice led the league in K/9 IP ratio and is fifth all-time in that category, with a career 10.73 mark. Because he has excellent control, having walked 70 batters in a season just once, the hurler has paced the loop in K/BB ratio four times, as well.

And his control is impeccable. He has never led the league in BB/9 IP, however he has placed in the top ten five times. He is third in the National League this year. He was second in 2015.

To say, then, that Scherzer is merely a strikeout pitcher is an insult to his body of work. He’s an artist, an expert, a workhorse and a winner. And what a winner he is. In this age of low victory totals, he’s led the league in that category four times, with as many as 21 in a season. At the doorstep of 200 with 189 for his career, he is nearing another impressive milestone, one only two active pitchers have reached. He has just 97 losses; that’s a career .661 winning percentage.

And a workhorse? Well, that might be an understatement. He’s led the league in games started, innings pitched and batters faced twice, each. Three times he has paced the loop in complete games and twice in shutouts.

But all those pitches, all those innings don’t affect his performance. They don’t hurt his ability to nibble the corners. To keep men off base. To throw with precision, pitch after pitch.

In 2,519 1/3 innings—the fifth-highest total among active hurlers—he’s surrendered just 2,053 hits, or a mere 7.3 per nine frames. He’s led the league in that category three times. And, since he doesn’t walk anyone, he’s paced the loop in WHIP five times, as well. His 1.082 mark is 15th-best ever. Better than Juan Marichal. Better than Sandy Koufax.

And fans, writers and baseball intelligentsia recognize his dominance. Selected to eight All-Star teams, he has won three Cy Young Awards—in 2013, 2016 and 2017—and finished second and third in voting once each. He finished fifth twice. In MVP balloting, usually dedicated to the very best hitters, he placed tenth three years in a row, from 2016 to 2018.

Between his Cy Young campaigns of 2013 and 2016, there was 2015, a magical year in itself. In addition to striking out 276 batters and posting a 2.79 ERA, he led the league with four complete games and three shutouts.

Scherzer’s black and grey ink are 57 and 202, respectively. The average Hall of Famer’s are 50 and 185. (Wikipedia).

Two of which were no-hitters. And both nearly perfect.

On June 20, facing the Pirates, Scherzer went 8 2/3 innings without allowing a man on base. To that point, he had 10 strikeouts. Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen had K-ed twice.

Just one out shy of perfection, with the crowd on its feet, Scherzer … plunked pinch hitter Jose Tabata. The next batter, Josh Harrison, flied out. So close. A no-hitter is quite the consolation prize.

Incredibly, he was coming off a one-hit, one-walk 16-strikeout shutout against Milwaukee on June 14 in which he was perfect through the first six innings. In his following start, he was perfect through his first five.

A few months later, in his last start of the season, he made history again in a performance that was greater than his near-perfect game.

Facing Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Harvey at the rest of the New York Mets, Scherzer walked not a soul as Mets batsmen went hitless. In fact, he himself didn’t allow any baserunners. The only man to reach was gifted his chance by way of a sixth inning throwing error by third baseman Yunel Escobar.

And he struck out 17 Mets, including, at one point, nine in a row. Shortstop Ruben Tejada and outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis whiffed three times each. Three other men K-ed twice.

He wasn’t able carry the dominance of that game into the postseason; Washington missed it, winning just 83 games on the year.

But the playoffs haven’t been elusive for Scherzer in his 14 seasons—he’s pitched in them seven times. In his first series, with Detroit back in 2011, he tossed 7 1/3 innings, K-ed 7 batters, posted a 1.23 ERA and won a game. In 2012, he made his first World Series appearance. It wasn’t his best performance—in 6 1/3 innings, he allowed 3  earned runs on 7 hits and a walk. He walked away with the no-decision, but the Tigers lost the series.

Skip to nearly a decade later, in 2019, with Washington. Scherzer won a game in the NLDS and NLCS, throwing seven innings of scoreless, one-hit, 11-strikeout ball in the latter.

Propelled to the Fall Classic for the first time in franchise history, Washington had Scherzer take the mound twice against Houston in that nail-biting, seven-game series. Starting Game One, he went five innings, allowed two earned runs and struck out seven Astros for the win. He didn’t pitch in Games Two through Six. But he was called upon to seal the deal in Game Seven.

Scherzer is 7-5 with a 3.38 ERA in 22 postseason appearances. (Wikipedia).

By Scherzer’s standards, it was a rough outing. Granted, he again surrendered just two earned runs, but he also allowed seven hits and four walks in five innings of work. He left the game with the Nationals trailing, 2-0. The uninspiring Patrick Corbin took over and tossed 3 scoreless innings. Daniel Hudson didn’t allow a run his inning, either. The Nationals offense came alive in the seventh with two home runs. They beat Houston, 6-2 and won the World Series in seven games.

Scherzer got his ring, icing on the cake of what has become a legendary career.

But he wasn’t always a shoo-in for greatness. Though he was the Diamondbacks’ first round pick in 2006—taken in the same round as Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum—his big league career began a little … disappointingly. Despite a 151 ERA+ his first season, 2008, he was 0-4 in 56 innings. The next year, he again posted a losing record of 9-11, with a 4.12 ERA. In 2010, he was solid but not spectacular at 12-11, 3.50 and in 2011, despite winning 15 games, he had a mediocre campaign with a 4.43 ERA and 93 ERA+. By then, he was already 27 years old.

That, however, was the old Scherzer. In 2013, everything clicked and he hasn’t looked back since. In those nine years, he’s gone 137-55 with a 2.80 ERA and 150 ERA+. In 1,714 2/3 innings, he’s struck out 2,174 batters (over 11 per nine innings) and posted a tiny WHIP of 0.982.

That is the Scherzer history will remember. That is the Scherzer who will get into Cooperstown. That is the Scherzer who reached 3,000 strikeouts.

And became immortal.

Studs and duds: September 1 – September 7

Frank is putting the “win” in Schwindel, amirite, guys? (Wikipedia).

Offensive stud: Frank Schwindel (1B, Cubs). Though he had an 0-for-4 performance last night, the Cubs first baseman’s hot hitting keeps him in the top spot.

Over the past week, he is still carrying a .433/.469/.833 line with 4 home runs, 12 RBI and 7 runs scored. His career marks, despite starting off with a .067 average with Kansas City in 2019 and a .150 mark with Oakland this year, have been elevated to .309/.349/.580 due to his surge with Chicago. His 162-game averages are 37 home runs, 111 RBI and 84 runs scored and, though those numbers are likely unsustainable, they sure look pretty.

He developed his power stroke a little later in his career, having never hit more than 5 home runs in a college season.

Honorable mention: Marcus Semien (2B, Blue Jays; .333/.429/1.125, 6 HR, 11 RBI).

Offensive dud: Gio Urshela (3B, Yankees). After a short time away, Urshela returns to his Dud post after a 1-for-8, 2 strikeout, 2 error showing over the past week. That makes him 3-for-29 (.103 BA) since rejoining the Yankees last month and gives him a .245 mark since late May. It has been an off year for the infielder as a whole—his strikeout percentage (25.1) is the highest it’s ever been, while his home run percentage (3.1) is his worst since 2018.

Is Urshela bad luck? New York has lost each of the last seven games in which he’s played.

Dishonorable mention: Charlie Culberson (3B, Rangers; 2-for-10, 3 K, 3 E).

Pitching stud: Max Scherzer (SP, Dodgers). Riding high on a stellar 13-strikeout performance against St. Louis on Monday, the future Hall of Famer retains his position atop the heap.

Should Scherzer win the Cy Young Award—and its looking like he might—it will be his fourth such honor, making him the fifth hurler with at least that many. It’s an illustrious group, counting Roger Clemens (7 CYAs), Randy Johnson (5), Steve Carlton (4) and Greg Maddux (4) among its number.

The other pitchers with three? Well, they’re pretty great, too: Clayton Kershaw, Sandy Koufax, Jim Palmer, Pedro Martinez and Tom Seaver.

Honorable mention: Logan Webb (SP, Giants; 14 IP, 16 K, 1 BB, 2.57 ERA).

Puk had a 3.18 ERA in 10 relief appearances with Oakland in 2019, his first big league season. (Wikipedia).

Pitching dud: A.J. Puk (RP, Athletics). This past week has not been ideal for the former first rounder, who holds a 33.75 ERA with 8 hits and 5 earned runs allowed in 1 1/3 frames. On September 1 and 7, he took the loss, blowing a save the former game and allowing 5 hits in 1/3 of an inning the latter.

This performance brings his season line to 0-3, 6.08 in 12 appearances—not quite what was expected of the top prospect, who was ranked the 83rd, 30th, 18th and 21st-best by Baseball America each year from 2017 to 2020, respectively. The clock is ticking on the lefthander, who, at 26, is no spring chicken. If all else fails, perhaps he can move to the field—he played some first base in college with Florida.

Dishonorable mention: Andres Machado (RP, Nationals; 2 1/3 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 0-2, 1 BSV).

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 7, 2021.

Max Scherzer 3,000 K watch: Facing the Cardinals last night, Dodgers ace Max Scherzer struck out 13 batters, bringing his career total to 2,994. Once he reaches the 3,o00 strikeout milestone, he will be one of just 19 pitchers with that many.

Miguel Cabrera 3,000 hit watch: It’s looking more and more unlikely that the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera will reach 3,000 hits this year, as the aging slugger hasn’t managed a hit since September 3 and still stands 36 away from the magic number. It would have been difficult for him to reach it, anyway, but now it looks like he’ll have to wait until next year.

Greinke has six seasons of 200-plus Ks. (Wikipedia).

Zack Greinke 3,000 K watch: I was going to start the countdown for Greinke once he got within 200 strikeouts of 3,000 … but he Ked just one batter his last time out and still stands at 2,799 for his career. He’s averaged as many as 10.5 K/9 IP in a season (2011) and holds an 8.1 mark for his career, but this year his number is down to just 6.2.

Arauz arises: Red Sox infielder Jonathan Arauz is hitting .169 in 59 at-bats this season, with a .136 mark over the past week. But he’s making his knocks count—two of his last three hits were dingers, while the third was a double. So despite his anemic average, his slugging percentage over the past seven days was still .455.

Ty Cobb when he doesn’t K: Over the past month, Indians outfielder Bradley Zimmer is hitting .362—on balls in play. But he has also struck out 36 times in 86 at-bats, giving him a line of .244/.333/.419 with 4 home runs, 9 walks, 14 runs scored and 13 RBI.

Trevor turning it around: After another solid performance yesterday (5 IP, 2 ER), Mets pitcher Trevor Williams now owns a 1.50 ERA in 18 innings since joining the club in August. He pitched for the Cubs earlier in the year and had a 5.06 mark in 58 2/3 innings with them.

Jarlin’s amazing: Since 2019, Giants reliever Jarlin Garcia owns a 2.34 ERA and 181 ERA+ in 119 appearances. With San Francisco last year, he had an astounding 0.49 ERA and 893 ERA+ in 19 games; this year, his marks are 2.33 and 179, respectively. Over the past month, he’s surrendered a single run in 16 innings. And he’s bucked the trend by not being a strikeout pitcher: He’s averaged just 7.2 K/9 IP for his career.

Two Davis birthdays: Two Davis’ of note were born on this day. Wade Davis, who for four years (2014-2017) was one of the premier relief pitchers in the game, turns 36. With the Royals in 2014 and 2015, he had an ERA of 0.97 in 140 appearances and he gave up more than one earned run in a game just once each year. During his incredible four-year stretch, he surrendered more than 2 runs just once. Curt Davis, who started and relieved in the 1930s and 1940s, was also born today. In 13 seasons, he won 158 games—including 19 in his rookie campaign, 1934—and made two All-Star Games.

He’s better than your team: Babe Ruth’s single season home run totals tied or exceeded those of an entire team’s 94 times in his career.

Lots of Ks, just to take the L: On September 15, 1969, facing the Mets, Phillies pitcher Steve Carlton struck out 19 batters, including the last three he faced, tossed a complete game … and lost, 4-3. He has company. A few years later, on August 20, 1974, The Angels’ Nolan Ryan Ked 19 Tigers in an 11-inning complete game, but lost 1-0; Detroit’s starter Mickey Lolich went the distance that day, too. On June 24, 1997, Seattle’s Randy Johnson had 19 strikeouts in a complete game loss against Oakland.

Wainwright leads active pitchers with 27 career complete games. (Wikipedia).

Complete game losses still happen: Though hurlers rarely pitch more than 6 or so frames nowadays, complete game losses aren’t yet a vestige of the past. The most recent nine inning example was on April 26 of this year, when the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright went the distance in a losing effort against Philadelphia. It’s happened 29 times since 2010.

Halladay went the distance: The last pitcher to toss a complete game of 10-plus innings and win? Roy Halladay, on April 13, 2007. The last pitcher to toss a complete game shutout of 10-plus innings and win? Roy Halladay, on September 6, 2003.

Excellent in the minors and majors: Pitcher Larry Jansen was 122-69 with a 2.77 ERA in 11 minor league seasons; in the majors, he was 122-89 with a 3.58 mark over nine campaigns, making him 244-158 with a 3.19 ERA overall. He had two 20-win seasons with the New York Giants (1947 & 1951) and was also the last hurler to win 30 games in a minor league campaign. In 1946, he was 30-6 with a 1.57 ERA in 38 games for the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisco Seals.

RBI king: Most RBI in a season by a batter with fewer than 10 home runs? You have to go back to 1899 for that. Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty had a league-leading 137 RBI on 9 dingers that year. One-hundred-plus ribbies with fewer than 10 big flies doesn’t happen often nowadays—Paul Molitor was the last to do it with 9 homers and 113 RBI in 1996. Before him, Tom Herr managed it in 1985 with 8 dingers and 110 RBI. Before Herr, Hall of Famer George Kell did it in 1950 (8 HR, 101 RBI).

Jones was 20-4 with a 1.24 ERA with the Philadelphia Stars in 1934. (Wikipedia).

Probably not worth it: In the fall of 1938, Negro league pitcher Slim Jones, low on funds, had a hankering for some booze but no money to buy it. He sold his overcoat to purchase a bottle of whiskey, promptly got pneumonia and died.

Reliving the dream: Rick Wolff played in the Tigers system in 1973 and 1974. Later a sportswriter, he reprised his role as player when he spent 3 games with the Single-A South Bend White Sox in 1989 for a story for Sports Illustrated. Going 4-for-7 with 3 RBI, he had the highest batting average (.571) on the team that year.

World traveler: Pitcher Len Picota played in the affiliated minors from 1984 to 1993, mostly in the Cardinals system. After that, he toured the world, spending time in Taiwan, Korea, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and his native Panama. In 2001, he joined the Expos in spring training, eight years after his last stint in affiliated ball, but was released before Opening Day.

Studs and duds: August 31 – September 6

Offensive stud: Frank Schwindel (1B, Cubs). Schwindel continued his hot hitting last night, extending his hitting streak to 7 games by going 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. That brings his line to .467/.500/.967 with 5 home runs and 13 RBI over the past week and .374/.421/.699 since joining Chicago in July.

It has been a longtime coming for the 29-year-old, who began his professional career in the Royals system back in 2013. Despite clobbering 20-plus home runs four times in the minors—including a 23 dinger, 97 RBI, .329 BA season spent mostly at Triple-A in 2017—Schwindel never found a home. The Royals cut him loose partway through the 2019 campaign, then Detroit signed him, but he was only a temporary lodger.

He began 2021 in the Athletics system, but was claimed off waivers by Chicago. That’s the best thing that ever happened to him.

Honorable mention: Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. (OF Blue Jays; .381/.458/.857, 2 HR, 13 RBI 1 GS).

Charlie Culberson had an OPS+ of -22 with San Francisco in 2012. (Wikipedia).

Offensive dud: Charlie Culberson (3B, Rangers). Welcome back, Charlie, I’m getting Gavin Lux vibes from you. You sure love to stick around these parts, don’t ya? It’s hard to redeem yourself when your play is so poor your club doesn’t want to put you on the field, but that’s what is happening here. Gotta get that shaky glovework (3 errors in the past week) under control.

Dishonorable mention: Paul DeJong (SS, Cardinals; 0-for-4, 2 K, 1 E).

Pitching stud: Max Scherzer (SP, Dodgers). The Stud seems to be a revolving door of Scherzer, Gerrit Cole, Robbie Ray and Logan Webb. This time, it’s Scherzer’s turn.

Last night, he struck out 13 hapless Cardinals in 8 innings, bringing his season total to 210 Ks and his career total to 2,994—just 6 away from the magical 3,000 mark. Having not surrendered a run since August 21, the hurler is 5-0 with a 1.05 ERA in 7 starts since joining the Dodgers in a July 30 trade with Washington that also netted Los Angeles star second baseman Trea Turner.

He has led the league in strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio three times in his career and is doing so again this season, with a mark of 12.3—especially impressive since he averaged just 8.7 K/9 through his first four campaigns.

Not just in strikeouts, Scherzer ranks among the elites overall—per Baseball-Reference.com’s similarity scores, three of the hurlers most statistically similar to him through age 36 are Hall of Famers Randy Johnson, Roy Halladay and Pedro Martinez.

Honorable mention: Kevin Gausman (SP, Giants; 1-0, 12 IP, 16 K, 2 BB).

Better days: Machado had a 2.89 ERA in 44 relief appearances at Triple-A in 2019. (Wikipedia).

Pitching dud: Andres Machado (RP, Nationals). Supplanting Baltimore’s Dillon Tate is Machado, who most assuredly did not have an enjoyable time these past seven days. In 1 2/3 frames over 4 appearances, the righthander took 2 losses, blew a save and allowed 4 earned runs on 7 hits and a walk for a 21.60 ERA.

His performance eviscerated what had been a decent campaign, raising his season mark from 2.35 to 3.65 in the span of a week. Prior to 2021, Machado last pitched in the major leagues with Kansas City in 2017, with whom he surrendered 9 earned runs in 3 2/3 frames—we see why teams hesitated in bringing him back to the majors.

Dishonorable mention: Andrew Heaney (P, Yankees; 0-1, 1/3 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 1 BSV).

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, September 2, 2021.

Scherzer 3,000 K watch: Facing Atlanta last night, the Dodgers’ Max Scherzer recorded another 9 strikeouts, bringing his season total to 197 and his career total to 2,981. Of course, now that he’s just 19 away from a historic milestone, there’s a hiccup—he was removed from the game due to hamstring tightness.

Can Cabrera do it? With 2 hits, including a home run, against Oakland last night, the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera is now just 37 away from 3,000. He has to stay hot all month, but 37 more knocks this season isn’t unimaginable.

Lester won 18 games as recently as 2018. (Wikipedia).

200 wins? Easy, lest Lester lose: Cardinals hurler Jon Lester now stands just two wins away from 200, which should be easy to achieve with nearly a whole month left in the season. Should be. He began the year just 7 victories short, but has won only 5 of his 22 starts.

Jose is crushing it: Give any batter a short enough time frame and he can do great things. Such is the case with Rangers catcher Jose Trevino, a career .243 hitter in the majors and a .259 hitter in the minors. Over the past week, he’s gone 7-for-19—that’s a .368 batting average—with 4 doubles and a .579 slugging mark.

No brakes for this Jake: Astros rookie outfielder Jake Meyers has been unstoppable since his debut on August 1. In 25 games, he’s hit .313 with 3 home runs and 5 doubles, after slashing .343/.408/.598 at Triple-A. The downside: In 80 at-bats, he’s walked just twice.

Resurgent Treinen: Dodgers reliever Blake Treinen had a rough and tumble start to 2021, posting a 3.41 ERA through June 23. Since then, he’s been among the best in the league: In 30 1/3 innings over 29 games, he’s allowed 2 runs on 11 hits and 9 walks for a 0.59 ERA. He didn’t surrender a single earned run from June 25 to August 19.

Chafin’s killing it, too: After beginning 2021 with a 5.00 ERA through April 24, Athletics reliever Andrew Chafin has posted a tiny 1.15 mark in 49 appearances since. Batters have slashed .147/.202/.212 against him in that span. From May 8 to July 21, he didn’t allow a single earned run and since July 28, he’s surrendered just 2.

#1 pick update: Henry Davis, taken by the Pirates as this year’s #1 overall draft pick, began his professional career with a .308/.387/.808 line with 3 home runs and 7 RBI in 8 games. He’s now on the 7-day injured list, but that start is promising.

Control issues have hampered Appel—he averaged 6 walks per 9 frames this year. (Wikipedia).

#1 pick update #2: Mark Appel, who the Astros selected at #1 in 2013 then traded to Philadelphia in 2015, left baseball for a few years but decided to mount a comeback this season. Back with the Phillies, he began the year at Double-A and had a 5.84 ERA in 24 2/3 innings, but was promoted to Triple-A anyway. Though he started off pretty well, he’s slipped bigly and now owns a 6.05 mark at that level. Hey, Tim Tebow got try after try, so Appel might, too. But right now, it’s not looking good for the 30-year-old hurler.

#1 pick update #3: The Astros took Brady Aiken #1 overall in 2014, but he did not sign and re-entered the draft the next year. He was then taken by Cleveland with the 17th pick. Though still in their system, he hasn’t played at all this year and has thrown just 2/3 of an inning since 2017.

2014 draft was rough: The #2 pick in the 2014 draft, Tyler Kolek, taken by Miami, flunked out of the minors after 2019. He never played above A-ball.

Growing hopeful about the Mets: I was getting really nervous about the Mets as they started to tumble, but perhaps my worries were premature. If I did my math correctly, their magic number to overtake first-place Atlanta is 36. They each have 32 games left—if the Mets win 20 and the Braves lose 16, New York could, feasibly, win the division … assuming Philadelphia doesn’t surge. They recently recalled Khalil Lee from Triple-A; I think he can help New York, as he worked an excellent .450 OBP down there.

 At least I tried: Catcher Russ Nixon attempted 7 stolen bases in his 906-game career, which spanned 1957 to 1968. He was never successful. That is the longest career a non-pitcher managed without stealing a base.

I think I’ll stay put: Former Braves catcher Johnny Estrada, who played from 2001 to 2008, didn’t even attempt a stolen base in 612 games. That is also a record.

Wolters led the National Association in RBI in 1871. (Wikipedia).

But my ERA was perfect! Oh, 1870s baseball, you provide us with so many wonders. Rynie Wolters pitched a single game in 1873 and went the whole nine innings, as hurlers were wont to do then. He surrendered 23 runs on 13 hits, a walk and what must have been a boatload of hit by pitches (we don’t know how many, they weren’t recorded then) … but didn’t surrender a single earned run. That was his last season, so he could say he finished his career on a high note, posting a 0.00 ERA in his final year. *Though, honestly, one wonders if his line is accurate or if it was entered into the record books incorrectly and has never been fixed).

Swaziland represent: The small landlocked African nation of eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland, has produced a professional baseball player. Steve Martin, born in the capital of Mbabne, played in the Astros system in 2011. He had a 6.00 ERA in 16 rookie ball games.

Giving props to The Baseball Cube: Most folks’ go-to source for baseball data is Baseball-Reference.com. But I have to give it to The Baseball Cube, as well. They offer a LOT that Baseball Reference doesn’t, like information on scouts, detailed Baseball America rankings and more in-depth college coverage, like records for coaches. It really is a great resource that I don’t think earns enough praise. (I didn’t get paid to say this).

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, August 29, 2021

Max Scherzer began his transformation from a decent hurler to a Hall of Famer with Detroit. (Wikipedia).

Scherzer 3,000 K watch: With 10 strikeouts on the 26th, Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer put himself just 28 away from 3,000 for his career. He also needs just 12 for 200 on the year; when he reaches that milestone, he will have done it eight times in his career. Upon eclipsing 3,000 Ks, he will all but seal his chances for Cooperstown. But even if he suffers a catastrophic, career-ending injury in his next start …

Scherzer’s a sure lock: With his statistics (187 W, 2,972 K, 3.17 ERA, 65.4 WAR, 10.7 K/9) being what they are, one can comfortably say Max Scherzer is a future Hall of Famer right now, at this point in his career. Maybe not a first ballot guy, maybe he’d have to wait until the veteran’s committee put him in, but he ranks among the best of this generation, and in this era of high-strikeout pitchers, Scherzer has been among the best the longest.

Can Cabrera collect ‘em all? As the world turned its attention to Miguel Cabrera’s chase for 500 home runs, his quest for 3,000 hits took a backseat. But right now, he’s only 40 away with two games left to play in August. He had 37 hits in a month as recently as September/October 2016 and 41 hits in May 2014. He’ll have to perform as well as he did in his prime, but Cabrera could, feasibly, reach the fabled hits milestone this year.

Ibanez rocks: Royals rookie second baseman Andy Ibanez just recently concluded an eleven-game hitting streak in which he hit .488 with 6 doubles and 2 home runs. Over the past week, he’s hit .458 and raised his season average to .260, up from .200 on August 14. He recently got a boo-boo, however, and is currently day-to-day.

Mercadoubt: Oscar Mercado, a 26-year-old outfielder for Cleveland, made waves as a rookie in 2019 when he hit 19 home runs with 54 RBI and 15 stolen bases, to earn some Rookie of the Year support. Since then, he’s hit just .194 with 4 home runs and 17 RBI in 82 games, casting doubt on whether he’ll ever live up to his first-year promise.

Abreu had a 20.25 ERA in 2 games with New York in 2020. (Wikipedia).

Just one bad game: Yankees reliever Albert Abreu had a 1.88 ERA and .091 OBA through his first 14 1/3 innings of the season, then on July 29, he surrendered 3 dingers and 6 earned runs without getting an out, raising his 2021 mark all the way to 5.65. Since then, he has a 2.51 ERA, again in 14 1/3 innings—but still carries a 4.08 ERA overall.

The same ol’ Nolin: Prior to 2021, Nationals hurler Sean Nolin hadn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2015; he missed all of 2016 and 2017 and then bounced around the minors, indy ball, even the Mexican Pacific Winter League and Japan. In his first three stints from 2013 to 2015, he had a 6.89 ERA in 31 1/3 innings. The time away didn’t help: Since returning to the majors, he’s posted a 6.57 mark in 3 starts. His last outing was decent, however, as he allowed just 2 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Mets on August 28.

Mets could do it: The Mets defeated the Nationals handily this afternoon, 9-4, and have now won two-in-a-row, they’re longest winning streak since … who knows how long, my memory isn’t that good (it was actually August 10-12). Baseball Reference says they still have a 0.4% chance of making the postseason. They’re facing some weak teams over the final stretch of the season, so what if …

It’s been a while: The last time a rookie pitcher had 5 or more shutouts was in 1983, when Orioles hurler Mike Boddicker had exactly that many and led the league. The last time a rookie even had three shutouts in a campaign was 1995, when Hideo Nomo did it for the Dodgers; he also led the league. And when did a rookie last lead the league in shutouts at all? 2019. The Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara had two.

Complete games are a rarity, too: Boddicker and the Rangers’ Mike Smithson were the last rookie hurlers with 10-plus complete games in a season, achieving the feat in 1983. In an indictment on today’s game, the last rookie pitcher to complete even five games in a season was the Dodgers’ Ismael Valdez in 1995; even worse, J.A. Happ was the last rookie to manage 3 CGs, doing so in 2009.

Rarer than no-hitters? Since 2019, only eight pitchers have thrown more than one shutout in a season. There’s been that many no-hitters this year alone.

Got ‘em all in one year: Shortstop/outfielder Eric Yelding spent five years in the major leagues in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, playing for Astros and Cubs. He stole 89 bases in his career—in 1990 with Houston, he swiped 64 of them.

Willy kept going: Speaking of speedsters with short careers, Willy Taveras—who stole 68 bags for the Rockies in 2008—was playing independent ball for the Sugar Land Skeeters as recently at 2019. Who knew. He last played in the majors in 2010.

A home for the washed-up: That 2019 Skeeters team featured myriad players who you thought were long since retired. James Loney, who last played in the majors in 2016, spent time with them, as did Mitch Talbot (2011), Denis Phipps (2012), Daniel Schlereth (2012), Josh Prince (2013), Felipe Paulino (2014), Cesar Cabral (2015), Dallas Beeler (2015), Matt West (2015), Ryan Jackson (2015), Rico Noel (2015) and Cody Stanley (2015), among others.

With the minor league August Browns in 1886, Suck hit .091 in 88 at-bats. (Wikipedia).

How many did he have to hit? Moe Hill spent 15 years in professional baseball, including nine seasons in the Twins system. From 1971 to 1978, he played for the Single A Wisconsin Rapids Twins—which, in itself, was an impressive feat, since by his last season with them, he was 31 and almost a full decade older than the average man in the Midwest League. Even more amazingly: He won four home run titles in a row, from 1974 to 1977. Despite hitting 267 career home runs, he peaked at Double A and never earned a big league call.

He lived up to the name: Tony Suck, a utilityman in 1883 and 1884, hit .151/.205/.161 in 205 career at-bats, for an OPS+ of 24. He was born Charles Anthony Zuck—shoulda kept the original name.

 No camping under that one: Remember when Braves pitcher Rick Camp, then a .060 hitter, hit an 18th-inning, game-tying home run … at 3 in the morning?  

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, August 22, 2021.

Max Scherzer is making his case for the Hall of Fame with each start. (Wikipedia).

Scherzer K watch: Dodgers starter Max Scherzer struck out 8 Mets yesterday, bringing his career total to 2,962. He’s just 38 Ks away from 3,000.

More on White: Dodgers hurler Mitch White earns another mention today. Talk about being oblivious—I knew he tossed 7 1/3 solid innings a few days ago, but I didn’t realize it was a relief appearance. He became the first pitcher to throw that many frames in relief since Ed Roebuck in 1960. Check out this article for more on the feat.

Ibanez is mashing: Andy Ibanez, the Rangers Cuban infielder, has 10 hits in his past 21 at-bats, after batting just .091 in his prior 10 games. He’s been a bright spot of late on that middling 43-80 team, but perhaps it should come as no surprise. He hit 20 home runs at Triple A in 2019 and batted .352 in 27 games there this year.

Jeffers’ power is there, but not his speed. He’s never stolen a base in pro ball. (Wikipedia).

Better than Stanton: Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers has 11 home runs in 184 at-bats this season, a rate of one every 16.7 at-bats—that’s a better clip than Giancarlo Stanton. The former second rounder won’t scare any pitchers with his batting average, but his slugging is a different story. He has 5 home runs, 3 doubles and 13 RBI in just 50 at-bats this past month.

Making up for that debut: Reliever Phil Bickford is doing his part to keep the injury-ravaged Dodgers in the playoff chase. In the past month, he has a 0.71 ERA in 14 appearances, striking out 16 batters in 12 2/3 innings. On the year, his mark with L.A. is 1.96. But his success wasn’t a forgone conclusion. He arrived on the big league scene in 2020, making a single relief appearance for the Brewers. In one inning, he allowed 4 earned runs on 4 hits, 2 hit batsmen and a wild pitch. And it looked like more of the same for 2021—he surrendered 2 runs in his single-inning initial appearance—but a move to the Dodgers in early May changed his fortunes.

Rays recall Mazza: Chris Mazza was summoned by the Rays again; he has a 5.57 ERA in 11 games for the club this year. The hurler didn’t make his major league debut until 2019, when he was 29, but has pitched each year since. Ever wonder what makes someone not big league worthy for years and years and years, just to suddenly be good enough to appear at the level every season? It’s like Erik Kratz—he didn’t debut until he was 30, then he rattled off an 11-year career.

Not #1: In 2019, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. were two of the three youngest players in the major leagues. But neither was number one. Can you name who was? It was the Blue Jays’ 19-year-old pitcher Elvis Luciano, who jumped straight from rookie ball—having never played above that level—to the majors. For one seven-game stretch in April and May he had a 0.84 ERA, but he had a 5.35 ERA in 25 appearances overall … and now he’s back in the minors, at Double A.

That’s wild: Facing the Red Sox in the 9th inning of his most recent appearance on July 22, Yankees reliever Brooks Kriske tied the post-1800s major league record with four wild pitches in a single frame. It’s an embarrassing, but not unheard of, feat: The Twins’ RA Dickey did it against the Mariners on August 17, 2008, the Phillies Ryan Madson did it against Arizona on July 25, 2006 and the Mariners Kevin Gregg did it against the Angels on July 25, 2004. In the previous century, it happened only twice—Hall of Famers Phil Niekro and Walter Johnson did it in 1979 and 1914, respectively.

Three-in-a-row: What’s worse—four wild pitches in the same inning, or three to the same batter in the same inning? The Padres’ Trevor Cahill managed the latter against Avisail Garcia of the White Sox in the bottom of the 4th on May 13, 2017.  

The catcher’s mitt is right there: On June 25, 2017, Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino tossed four wild pitches in a span of three outs against the Dodgers. Earlier in the game, Dodgers starter Brandon McCarthy threw three wild pitches in one inning and in the 3rd, Rockies starter Tyler Anderson added one of his own.

Dan Haren finished his career 153-131 with a 3.75 ERA. (Wikipedia).

Mr. Consistent: From 2005 to 2015, that’s 11 years, Dan Haren won no less than 10 games, made no fewer than 30 starts, tossed no less than 169 2/3 innings and had no fewer than 132 strikeouts in a season. He averaged 33 starts, 13 wins, 209 innings and 176 strikeouts per year.

Hall of Fame birthday: Three Hall of Famers were born on this day. Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski came into this world in 1939, while 3,000 hit club-member Paul Molitor joined us in 1956. Nineteenth-century manager Ned Hanlon, who won five pennants, was born in 1857.

Time to reanalyze Franco? With Lee Smith’s election to the Hall of Fame in 2019, it might be time to reanalyze the case for John Franco. At the time of his retirement, he was third all-time in saves—behind only Smith and Trevor Hoffman—and his 424 still rank fifth on the list. Only Craig Kimbrel, himself potentially headed to Cooperstown, currently threatens his position.

That’s all he’ll be remembered for: Hey Mets fans, remember when Luis Castillo dropped the ball?

That’s an improvement: Bryan Evans, a minor league pitcher from 2008 to 2019, was pretty lackluster during the first few years of his career. From 2008 to 2010, he was just 13-22 and his ERA never dropped below 4.00. Then he exploded in 2011, going 8-2 with a 1.99 ERA. Talk about an improvement! According to the experts at Baseball-Fever.com, the only major league pitcher to start his career with three straight seasons with ERAs above 4 (min. 40 IP each season), and then have an ERA below 2 in his fourth campaign, is Hall of Fame closer Rich “Goose” Gossage.

Hainline dies: Former Gonzaga star outfielder Jeff Hainline, who hit .370 with 21 home runs in 1984, died August 12 at 56. He was later drafted by the Rangers and spent a year in their system, but batted just .103 in 29 at-bats. His brother, Bill Hainline, also played for Gonzaga.